Tuesday, February 06, 2007

IOI Toll Hike Protest

At 3.50 pm, I arrived at IOI Puchong. A small crowd had gathered outside the main entrance of IOI Mall just in front of my favourite joint, Starbucks. I was greeted by Khai Loon, the president of Y4C and saw Ronnie Liu lingering at the area.

We chatted for a while and the coordinator started to introduce the Protes leaders who were there including Tian Chua, Ronnie, Ezam, Dr Hatta and others. After a short speech, the crowd was trying to move towards a small area between IOI car park and a pedestrian bridge. Before the crowd was able to move there, the riot police had stopped them on their path. Not wanting to clash with the police, the crowd led by the Protes leaders took another way and was allowed to get to the area.

At the area, I could observed that there was no obstruction to shoppers or traffic. The protesters consisted of both young and old, of all races and both gender. Some of them were members of several NGOs.

The moment the speeches started, the police gave their warning to the protesters to 'bersurai' or disperse. In that instance, the Protes asked the crowd if they could send two representatives to speak to the police to 'negotiate' for a few minutes for them to finish their speeches. I could hear Tian Chua and Badrul negotiating with the police but was given 15 minutes to disperse.

At the same time, Ronnie and Dr Hatta were busy making speeches. They shouted 'naik, naik rakyat' and 'turun, turun tol'. The crowd followed suit. But when the negotiation with the police failed and when Tian Chua was about to make his speech, the police armed with baton and shield charged at the crowd.

I am sad to say that the crowd was not unruly. In fact, the demonstrators were more afraid of the police than the opposite. The presence of the police personnel simply outnumbered the protestors. They covered both sides of the road. A helicopter could be seen circling the area. Police dogs, water canons and FRU trucks could be seen everywhere.

The irony was there was no riot! Only a peaceful demonstration and many like myself, who were affected by the toll hike of 60% were there to lend our support as non-partisan members and citizens who wanted to know why we were made to pay so much. We wanted to know why the government insisted to cover up the toll concession agreements using the OSA when the public money is involved. It will become the biggest cover up in the history of privatisation in Malaysia.

Several arrests were made and some of them arrested included young women who did nothing but protested against the police roughness. Some policemen in plain clothes were obviously acting unruly and rude. A number of the organisers were arrested as well. DAP assemblyman Teng Chang Khim then tried to negotiate with the police to release all who were detained if the demonstration were to break up. When Teng was making an announcement that the police has agreed to release the detained, some of those arrested were brought to the police truck. It was obvious that the police had changed their mind.

I brought Teng to the police station at Puchong in my car which was parked on the other side of the road. While there, we received another message that the crowd was making their way to police station. Wong Chin Huat, myself and several others made our way there and we could see the crowd making their way from the Proton showroom to the police station followed by the FRU. When they reached the HSBC Bank, suddenly the FRU personnel were seen charging at the crowd from behind as though they were chasing a pack of stray dogs.

Fearing getting hurt, I did not run but stood there to take some pictures in case the police decided to beat any of the unarmed and non-violent demonstrators.

The crowd then gathered outside of the police station unfettered by the presence of the police and heavily armoured trucks, police dogs and tear gas (not fired). The police treated the demonstration as a riot which is not necessary.

I am humbled by the experience and as a person equally affected by the toll hike, I can understand the predicament of the people. Many of them are low wage earners. The government should show more empathy towards the people.

The police may be chasing them like a pack of stray dogs but when come general elections some selfish politicians will come kissing their hands for votes.

I truly hope we could strive for a non-partisan understanding and support for the matter.


kumar said...

You wrote, 'The government should show more apathy towards the people'.

I think you meant to write 'empathy', no?

Kay Peng said...

yes, thanks. duly corrected.